Why Sour Cream Is The Ultimate Secret Ingredient

Cornbread, brownies, cheesecake, pie crust, waffles, breads – you name it, sour cream can make it better. There’s nothing worse than taking a bite out of a dish you’ve been looking forward to, only to have it come up short on moist expectations.

Luckily, there’s an easy way to ensure guaranteed moisture in almost any dish – and it all boils down to the type of dairy that’s used. Many baking recipes call for milk, but sour cream enhances the texture of baked goods by making them moist and spongy while adding a slight tanginess that can’t be achieved with regular milk. But it’s more than just taste! Using sour cream creates a chemical reaction that exceeds flavor and texture expectations.

Sour Cream Science

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details, let’s dive into what sour cream is for a second.

It’s made by fermenting high-pasteurized cream with lactic acid-producing bacteria; this lactic acid is the superstar that gives baked good much-needed moisture. The lactic acid reacts with leavening agents like baking soda and baking powder, and that reaction creates air bubbles that gives a soft, fluffy texture.

The moisture and fat content help create a richer and creamier flavor. Sour cream also helps to weaken gluten strands which gives a better texture. Combining sour cream with seltzer water creates a similar reaction and spongey end result.

Many websites recommend buttermilk for this purpose, since it contains the same lactic acid that’s needed for getting a moist bake. While buttermilk is a better option over regular milk, it still doesn’t compare to sour cream’s thick texture and fatty richness that adds creaminess to baked goods.

Why sour cream is the secret ingredient in waffles

If you’re out of sour cream, there are other dairy options that can be substituted:

  • Full-fat Greek yogurt
  • Buttermilk
  • Cream cheese
  • Crème fraîche
  • Cottage cheese

These high-fat alternatives will help maintain the moisture in your baked goods. They won’t have the same tangy flavor as sour cream, so keep that in mind when swapping out ingredients.

Alternatively, low-fat dairy products like regular milk or buttercream will still work, and many sites recommend both products for baked goods because they contain the same lactic acid that’s needed for getting a decent bake. Without sour cream, however, your baked goods may not be as rich, tender, and moist.

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